8 June 2014
Speeding penalty leaves Power frustrated
Will Power was looking set to challenge Ed Carpenter for victory in the Firestone 600, when the Penske driver again fell foul of the officials.
Whether Will Power would have managed to win the Firestone 600 if he hadn't been handed a drive thru penalty for speeding on pit lane on lap 213 is very much an open question, but having his race yet again affected by an officiating call at a critical moment was certainly on the Australian's mind as he climbed out of the #12 Penske car after a gruelling 248 laps.
"Another drive-thru," he simmered. "That's four drive-thrus in five races. That's not good enough. Anyone who says I don't get drive-thrus or penalties are crazy, man. I get them every race."
Not that Power was blaming anyone other than himself for the latest gaffe: "I'm just going too hard, obviously the pit thing and obviously last week with the contact early in the race," he admitted. "But those mistakes are just not good enough at this level. I've got to stop it. I've got to just take it a bit easier."
The drive-thru dropped Power back to sixth place, but he was narrowly able to stay on the lead lap running just in front of race leader Ed Carpenter on the track. A late caution for Takuma Sato's engine blowing up closed up the field and also allowed Power to pit for fresh tyres without losing any further places - meaning he was in a perfect position to charge down the cars ahead of him in the two laps remaining when the race got back underway.
"An awesome call at the end by the team to call for new tyres and obviously got back to at least where we were," said Power. "One more lap and we probably would have had it."
But if there had been no penalty and no late caution, did Power think he would have been able to beat Carpenter in a straight fight to the finish?
"I don't know," Power conceded. "Ed was awfully strong. He's an awesome driver and it would have been a good battle at the end. My car was good at the end of the stint, but I just feel happy that the Verizon car came in second. It was a lot of fun."
Power managed to get his nose in front of his Penske team mate Juan Pablo Montoya by just 0.0524s at the line, leaving the Colombian feeling slightly annoyed by how the race had finished, where he clearly felt that Carpenter had jumped the flag at the final restart to get away from the field.
"I want to go talk to IndyCar and clarify why the cones are there for the restart if you don't have to use them," he said. "I understand if you wanted to go a little early or a little late, it's okay, but like 200, 300 yards before we get to the cones and he was already going. I was kind of disappointed with that, that he got away with that.
"I think there's got to be a clear‑cut penalty that if you go before the cones, you've got to get a penalty and the penalty is a drive-thru and at the end of the race you're going to get a time penalty on your result, and it's that simple," he suggested. "If the guy knows he's going to get a five‑second penalty for jumping the start at the end of the race, he wouldn't jump it. But he jumped it because he knew they were never going to wave it off because if you wave it off the race is over.
"But overall for the Verizon team it was really good," said Montoya, otherwise pleased with his performance at Texas Motor Speedway - a track he knows well from racing in NASCAR but which is completely new to him in open-wheel racing.
"You could really control the race and the pace and the benefit of it, and you could run high, you could run low," he said, recalling the race. "I had huge slides a couple times. I didn't know you couldn't get on the brakes hard on these cars when somebody wrecks. That scared the hell out of me. I went, whoop, and I went through the apron and everything.
"What a handful! Oh, my God. To be good here it's got to be a handful. We crank wing and crank wing and the more we cranked the better we got. It was fun.
But Montoya's race was almost undone the minute the green flag came out at the start of the evening: "I had a freaking flat tyre in lap 2," he said. "I was kind of lucky that the caution came out." The caution - for Marco Andretti blowing up - allowed Montoya to pit under caution and put him on a slightly off-sync race strategy that went on to his advantage, allowing him to take the lead for a total of 13 laps during the race.
Montoya was able to reset his pit stop strategy under a subsequent caution for Justin Wilson and Sebastien Bourdais crashing out, meaning that he was able to go on and claim a podium position at the chequered flag - which was rather better than the third member of the Penske squad was able to do on Saturday, with defending race winner Helio Castroneves finishing in eighth place a lap off the leaders after the two-hour race concluded.
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